@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
And Now They Know Your Name
“Hi Lori! Are you happy?”
Confused, “um… I dunno. Am I supposed to be?”
“You’re so funny! I’m still laughing at your jokes. You must be so happy if you’re that funny.”
Clearly this woman has never known comedians. We’re the not a cheery bunch. I know more comedians who are medicated for depression than not. And honestly, the more unhappy a comic is, the more of a comedic genius they seem to be.
This little transaction happened at my part time day job. The woman in the above conversation is a big shot where I work. She only recently learned my name. Let me elaborate.
I work for a music venue that’s within a hotel, that is a sister hotel of another NYC hotel. They are both swanky hotels, regarded and rated as two of the best hotels in New York City. I won’t state what they are or the music venue I work for, but it would be pretty easy to figure out if you follow me on social media.
Anyway, I started working at this job back in the Spring. After being fed up at my former job and offered a temporary freelance writing gig that was semi-lucrative, I quit that job. The freelance writing job was awesome, especially since it was during the winter and I spent many days never leaving my apartment (which was also a little worrisome at times). Alas, I quickly ran out of money that I made from that short term writing gig and had to find another job.
Through a friend, I was hired for an administrative assistant to the boss/venue, a position that previously didn’t exist at all, that both my boss and I built from the ground up. Upon hiring, I always tell whomever is hiring me that I’m a stand-up. It’s on my resume. The main reason for this is, I want to be 100% honest and fair that I need a job that will work with me when it comes to going on the road. This has not been a problem for me. If I need to take off, I offer to come in other days, come in earlier, stay later. More than not, employers have been accommodating to flexibility. People, especially New Yorkers, really respect someone who is working hard to pursue a difficult career as an artist.
So, I work for a small business within a large business (hotel), which has a sister hotel (are you with me still?). Every year they have an employee talent show for employees for both locations. Very few people knew I was a comedian, which is how I preferred it. I preferred to sit in my corner desk and make little eye contact or connection with the others. Quiet. Hard working. I don’t bother them, they don’t bother me. But the people who did know I was a stand-up said, “you should totally do that talent show.”
“Fuck no,” I said, “I’ve spent many years being humiliated and bombing to hone my art. I’m not doing it where I work.”
Until I found this out:
1st Place: $1000
2nd Place: $500
3rd Place: $250
“Fuck yes,” I said, “sign me up.” See? I can be tempted by money after all.
I knew such a thing could easily go either way. This is a hospitality business. I knew for sure there would be really talented singers and dancers. But I also knew there wasn’t anyone else who did comedy, and if they did, they weren’t as good as me. I’m not saying this pretentiously. I’ve been doing comedy nearly 9 years, thousands of shows at this point. I have a repertoire of great jokes. I’ve performed at the Cellar, 1000 seat theaters, clubs across the country, from A rooms to shit bar shows, opened for some of the best comics in the world. I fucking worked my ass of at this. If the road I’m on leads no where, no matter what anyone thinks of me personally or comedically, no one could deny my work ethic and that I can write a good joke. So, yes, I knew in the comedy category, there was not another employee in this corporation that could compare.
Then again, a talent show is a weird thing. Talent shows aren’t geared for comics. (America’s Got Talent is the perfect example of this— which I also have a story about for another time when they were courting me for that show.) Despite being a good comic, I could easily bomb in this situation. Audiences have to really listen, and in my case, have to like dark jokes. It could be terrible. Any comic I told agreed: 50/50 on it completely sucking but also agreed I had a shot at prize money if the crowd was good. If I had a good set, I figured I might have a shot at second or third (I had already ruled out first place to a singer or dancer, so my confidence is mild at best despite that last paragraph where I bragged about my accomplishments). It’s hard to do comedy in front of crowds who come to see comedy in comedy clubs, let alone crowds not primed for comedy.
There was nothing to lose except my secret identity. Once people know I’m a comic, it’s like being seen naked. Well… maybe not naked, but you get it.
Fuck it. I thought. Who cares? Next year I’ll pitch my scripts again and maybe one of my scripts will sell and I won’t even have to work here anymore (very wishful thinking).
As predicted, the talent show was mostly singers and dancers. Some of which were very talented. One guy “attempted” stand-up and I say attempted not to be a dick but because he told me he only did stand up once before— at this talent show last year. He bombed, but the audience was polite and listened and occasionally chuckled. That’s when I knew I was going to do well. All I really needed was their attention.
This is where I really get off. I love taking people by surprise. As I said before, most people didn’t know me. And those who did knew nothing about me except that I was quiet. Most didn’t even know my name. To them, I looked like a bookish, just out of college kid, lacking confidence of any sort. Not an almost 30 year old who’s been diligently honing the craft of comedy for almost a decade. My act belies my look. I have an “all American girl” face, but my joke book is death heavy.
I killed. I went over my time because I was getting so many applause breaks. At first I was a little nervous I was going to incriminate myself since I do talk about sex and drugs, but the they were into my dark jokes. There was even a partial standing ovation when I got off stage. Surprise, mother fuckers.
I took third place. Though many told me they thought I was robbed. Still, I was happy to have won some extra money.
“You know how people say you shouldn’t quit your day job? Well you should quit your day job,” a woman I didn’t recognize said.
“This is my day job.”
“You should quit. You’re hilarious.”
It would be a lie if I told you I didn’t relish in some of the adulation. Those who didn’t know me were giving me hugs and swore I was “going places.” “You have a bright future!” “You’re a real talent!” “You must do this a lot, you’re fucking funny.” And there were a decent amount of people who said, “I don’t think I ever heard you talk before.” Hilarious. People are often mystified by my personality because I seem to be a contradiction. I do not try to be this way: it just comes naturally.
Yes, it was sweet to win money and get some respect from both people who didn’t know I existed and those who had no idea what that “quiet girl who works in the corner” is capable of… but there is a push-back for me too…
Even people who weren’t there heard tales of my killing set, and now my anonymity is compromised. Being a wallflower is something I’m fond of, and invisibility is a place of comfort for me.
There is a level of support from the other people who work there. They are not only impressed but genuinely convinced I’ll go on to do bigger and better things, now often asking me when my next gig is and if they could come. Then I mumble and avert eye contact, reverting back to the version of me that they once thought was the only version of me— fidgety, maybe a little off.
They’re all very kind. And they don’t know how it feels to kill in theater. Open for the best comedians ever, your idols, and have the encouragement of comics who were once just legends on television and are now friends. They don’t know how it feels to crush in a stupid talent show with your tried and true material. They don’t know how it feels to have been so close to your dream that you’ve touched it— that you’ve been there, but you don’t stay there. You have to come back down here. And there’s nothing wrong with that, at all, but it’s so heartbreaking to be something you want to be and then be nothing in the morning.
And they don’t know the fact that they know my name is a reminder of that feeling.